It takes a village for a Whidbey Island restaurant to remain a fixture for 30 years

Posted in Culinary, Feature

Whidbey Life Magazine contributor
May 1, 2013

Neil’s Clover Patch Café in Langley has withstood the test of time — 30 years to be exact — thanks in large part to a supportive community network.

So says owner and chef Neil Colburn, former Langley mayor and city council member. He and his wife Candace purchased the café in 1983. Today the diner is a South Whidbey staple for its good food and welcoming atmosphere.

Candace and Neil Colburn at their cafe in Bayview Center. (Photo by Susan Wenzel)

Candace and Neil Colburn stand ready to take your order at their cafe in Bayview Center. (Photo by Susan Wenzel)

“The Patch,” which offers a pleasant blend of traditional comfort cuisine and an ever-increasing proportion of island-sourced foods, is a favorite among the locals, most of whom Colburn knows by name.

“Tourists are gravy. I need to cater to the 52 week-a-year people,” he said, referring to the island’s year-round residents who are the meat and potatoes of his business.

“The recession has been going on for six or seven years now.  Times have been tough, but I could always count on my loyal customers,” Colburn said.

“And, I don’t only cook for them. I also buy from them,” Colburn added.  “All of my beef is local, grass-fed and antibiotic-free from Long Family Farm just up the road.  I get salad mix from Molly’s Island Garden, herbs from Bayview Farmer’s market and fresh, organic eggs from The Raven and the Spade Farm.  And, I’m always looking for more items to add.”

Neil’s Clover Patch serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and boasts a variety of daily specials, as well as an extensive menu ranging from prime rib to a smoky bacon grilled cheese sandwich made with Screaming Banshee bread, a popular local specialty baked in Greenbank and sold in grocery stores and restaurants island-wide.

And it’s not just about the food.  The artwork lining the walls of the restaurant (offered for sale by Artists of South Whidbey) and the “Proud member of Whidbey Island Grown” placard and WAIF collection jar by the register, also speak to Colburn’s love of his community.

“When you eat here, you don’t just support Neil’s.  You’re supporting your neighbors — different farmers and different chefs,” said Colburn, adding that the “Death by Chocolate” cake is baked by Camille LaTray of The Raven and the Spade, a prolific garden and local source for fresh produce on East Harbor Road in Freeland.

He also hinted at a plan to add even more island-made desserts to the menu. “Tree Top Baking; you’ve heard of them?  Don’t they make great stuff?”

Neil’s Clover Patch Café is open seven days a week from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. (coffee is served at 6 a.m.) and is located at 14485 State Route 525 in Langley at Bayview Center.

Visit the restaurant’s Facebook page  for a healthy dose of friendly banter, as well as a list of daily meal specials (also available by calling 360-321-4120).

(Pictured at top is the outside of Neil’s Clover Patch Café in Bayview/Photo by Susan Wenzel)

Food writer Susan Wenzel believes in the power of locally produced food to fortify the health and well-being of both the individual and the community as a whole.    



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